Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Councillors vote on pay

Cornwall councillors today voted to reject the recommendation of the Independent Remuneration Panel (IRP) which included the former boss of local newspaper group Cornish and Devon Media, but did agree a rise in allowances from May next year when the new council is elected.

It's always a very tricky business to vote on your own pay. I wish there was a way we could hand it over or tie our allowances to the pay of a particular officer level, but the law is clear in stating that we must decide based on an IRP report.

The IRP said that the appropriate level of basic allowance should be £16,200 per year. When this was put to councillors by Labour councillor Jude Robinson as part of a package that included a study of how to increase pay for the lowest earning staff members, there was an overwhelming vote against.

The other proposition was for a rise to £14,600 per year. This was based on the amount that the IRP had said should be paid in their last report a couple of years ago. This proposal was combined with a recommendation to review the free meals that councillors can have when attending county hall on business. This proposal was passed by 42 votes to 29.

Of those who voted (and only just over half of all councillors did):
  • the Conservative group split 12-12, 
  • the Lib Dem group split 10-10, 
  • the Independents (of various shades) backed the raise by 16 votes to 6, 
  • MK backed the raise by 3 votes to 1 and 
  • the sole Labour member voted for the raise.
Personally, I voted against the increase. Although I think it is right to consider a rise every four years (Lib Dems resisted three previous attempts led by the former Leader to raise aspects of councillor allowances), I felt that the amounts being talked about were still too much. It is true that councillors who undertake the role full time receive less than the minimum wage, but I wanted to see a rise in the basic allowance tied to cuts in the special responsibility allowances package and other benefits so that the overall effect was cost neutral. I think this would have better reflected the balance of work undertaken by councillors and been acceptable to the public.


Phil said...

Congratulations Alex. As a full time councillor you chose unlike Wallis, Cole and Long not to make a sanctimonious speech about how hard you work and how hard done by you are. You also recognise that the correct way to increase the basic councillors allowance is by looking at savings elsewhere. Your point about cutting responsibility allowances is well made but I doubt these will amount to much when shared between 123 councillors.

It is interesting that only 81 councillors voted yesterday - much the same number as were on Cornwall County Council. If the £12,000 that 123 councillors get were shared among 80 councillors. Then that would give £18,000 each, a living if not a princely wage and no extra cost to the council tax payer. Moving from 123 to 80 councillors might take time for the bureaucracy but in my view it would be time well spentfor other reasons too.

Paul Loft said...

I think for councillors such as yourself, who clearly attend the vast majority of meetings you are expected to, and do things like going and knocking on doors on a Saturday afternoon in an immediate response to a constituents concerns voiced on Facebook, the proposed £16k would not be an unreasonable salary.

But I think if that had been approved then there would have had to be rules put in place around attendance as there is for any other employee. I am expected to turn up to work on the days I am being paid to work and if I didn't turn up one morning the boss would want to know why before he agreed to pay me.

I would be in favour of making the role a 'proper job' with a living wage and councillors accountable for the hours they put in.
I would much rather that than have councillors who have other calls on their time to the point where they don't attend meetings they are supposed to be at (we have talked before about that issue and the attendance records of certain individuals).

We might actually encourage a more diverse range of people to go into the 'job' rather than either those with independent means or those willing to work for less than the minimum wage.

Well done and thank you for all you do. I might not always agree with your politics, but certainly no one could question the time, commitment and effort you put in and your willingness to work for a solution to anyone's problems.

Thanks Alex